GLADEVILLE—Hunter Wright can talk trophies.
His family owns and operates Premier Sign and Trophy, specializing in creating and engraving sports trophies and plaques.
Meanwhile Wright, 19, has his own collection. He is one of the area’s hot young racing talents, with a room-full of glittering hardware to prove it: six Legends Series championships at two different tracks at Fairgrounds Speedway and Veterans Motorplex, two Tennessee state titles, one national runner-up and an estimated 50-60 Legends victories through the years.
“It’s been fun,” Wright said of his success in the lower-level series. “Now I want to move up.”
Wright this season is running some top-division late model races for renown car builder and team owner Wayne Day, of Millersville. Wright joined Day Enterprises last year, working in the shop and eventually was afforded a chance to drive some of the cars he helps build.
“It’s a great opportunity,” said Wright, a graduate of Wilson Central High School. “Mr. Wayne has accomplished so much in this sport, and it’s an honor to get to drive for him.”
Last year, Wright attended a technical school that required a number of hours of job shadowing, akin to an internship. Mark White, who works for Day Enterprises, is a friend of Wright’s dad, Dwayne, and got him a job in the machine shop.
The internship turned into a full-time job, and it wasn’t long before Wright was behind the wheel of some of Day’s creations. He ran three late model races last year, and this year, he has raced at New Smyrna, Florida, Montgomery, Alabama, and Lebanon, Missouri. The team plans to also race at Fairgrounds Speedway.
Wright hasn’t won in the late models yet but continues to improve and gain valuable seat time.
“Nobody knows more about racing and race cars than Mr. Wayne,” Wright said. “He’s a great teacher.”
Day, who for decades has fielded cars for some of the sport’s finest fledgling racers, likes what he sees in his young driver.
“Hunter is one of the most impressive youngsters to come through here,” Day said.
That’s high praise, considering some of Day’s drivers went on to race in NASCAR’s premier Cup Series, including Bobby Hamilton, David and Jeff Green, Morgan Shepherd, Casey Atwood and Brad Teague. Dozens of others competed successfully in NASCAR’s second-tier Busch/Xfinity Series, as well as in local divisions.
Jerry Criswell, owner of Veterans Motorplex where Wright is a three-time defending Legends Series champ, said the young driver is not just a great racer, but also a great diplomat for the sport.
“He is a fine young man,” Criswell said. “I compare him to Richard Petty in terms of how he connects with fans. He’s exactly what our sport needs.”
Racing legend James “King” Climer, who probably has won more races on more tracks than any driver in Tennessee, is also a Wright admirer.
“He’s got as much talent as any kid I’ve seen in a long time,” Climer said.
Wright, informed the comments, said, “That’s awfully nice of them. It means a lot, especially coming from people I admire so much. I’ve got a lot to live up to.”
Wright built an impressive resume in the Legends Series. Along with his three consecutive championships at Veterans Motorplex, he added an upper-division title on the track formerly known as Highland Rim Speedway.
He also is a three-time Legends champ at Fairgrounds Speedway and won two Tennessee state championships. Last year, he came within one point of winning the national championship. He was in the points lead with three laps to go in the final race in North Carolina when he got shuffled back behind a slower car. He missed winning the National Legends crown by a single position.
But that impressive Legends legacy is in the past, as Wright focuses on bigger things in the future.
“We’ve sold our Legends car,” he said. “I want to devote my full time and effort to Mr. Wayne’s late model car. I want to give it my complete attention.”
Wright emphasized he has had a lot of help along the way.
“The fans and media tend to focus on the driver,” he said, “but I couldn’t have accomplished anything by myself.”
Wright’s most avid supporters are his dad, Dwayne, a retired racer, and his mother, Julie. Kid sister, Brynlyn, 9, is the team’s designated cheerleader.
“Hunter works hard and is very focused,” Julie Wright said. “We support and encourage him every way we can.”
“He’s a good racer and an even better son,” Dwayne Wright said. “We couldn’t be prouder of him – for both reasons.”